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Transparency Win: India Bank Ordered to Reveal Anonymous Political Donations through Electoral Bonds

India Bank Ordered to Reveal Anonymous Political Donation
India Bank Ordered to Reveal Anonymous Political Donation

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India Bank Ordered to Reveal Anonymous Political Donations through Electoral Bonds

India’s Supreme Court has given the State Bank of India (SBI), a government-run bank, one day to disclose details of a controversial electoral bonds scheme that allowed anonymous donations to political parties. Despite the SBI’s request for more time, the court has mandated the sharing of data with election officials by the end of Tuesday and publication on its website by Friday. The court had previously declared the scheme unconstitutional, and this latest development is seen as a setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the primary beneficiary of the system.

The electoral bonds scheme, launched by Modi’s government in 2018, aimed to enhance transparency in political funding. However, critics argued that it made the process more opaque, as donors could purchase bonds in fixed denominations from SBI branches and provide them to political parties for encashment.

In its February order, the Supreme Court directed the SBI to cease issuing such bonds, provide details of buyers, and furnish information about redeemed bonds to the Election Commission by March 6. With the bank filing a petition seeking an extension until June 30, citing the time-consuming nature of matching information, the court dismissed the plea and warned the bank of potential disobedience if it failed to comply with the specified timeline.

The SBI claimed to have details of donors, bond denominations, and redemption by political parties, but these were in separate categories. The court emphasized the disclosure of information already available, implying that immediate comprehension of donor details might not be feasible.

Critics, who had challenged the electoral bond scheme in the Supreme Court, referred to it as a “distortion of democracy.” The government defended the policy, stating its intent to reduce cash donations to political parties, a predominant funding source for India’s elections.

The court’s ruling highlighted the violation of citizens’ right to access government information. Concurrently, India is grappling with another controversy surrounding the abrupt resignation of a top election official, raising questions about the timing and prompting calls for the government to clarify the reasons behind the departure. With general elections looming in the next few months, these developments add complexity to the political landscape in India.


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